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We just returned home from another trip. Some may call us jet-setty. I call us dumb and tired as hell. This particular trip was a brief jaunt down into the heartland of America. It was my aunt's 60th birthday and 10 brave family members caravanned to Omaha, NE for a weekend of drinking, debauchery, and money loss so extreme it may take years to repair the damage.

My aunt and uncle have been living in Omaha now for 15 years. They moved there after landing a job on the mainland after living in Hawaii for eons and eons. Hawaii to Omaha. Who knew such a thing could happen? They seem to like it pretty well and have a wondrous loft in Old Town, which is in a cute slice of downtown. It's so lovely it almost makes you forget where you actually are. I think that's why they're still there.

What Omaha has, if you don't already know, is Keno. With a capital K.

According to the definition in Wikipedia: Keno is a lottery-like or bingo-like numbers gambling game. If you haven't ever seen it before, the gist is you pick numbers ahead of time and then cross your fingers like Holy Hannah they pop-up on the TV screens around the bar in the form of floating cartoon ping-pong balls. There are all sorts of different number combos and the pay-outs (or lack there of) are all different based on odds.

Keno is in 90% of the bars in Omaha. Right at our fingertips. We love it. Can't get enough. My eyes cross in delight when I imagine myself picking the perfect numbers. I have an in-depth fantasy of winning, which over the years I have honed to perfection and includes but is not limited to: jumping up from my bar stool waving the winning ticket and twirling in falling money.

When my aunt and uncle first moved to Omaha we all yelled, "What the hell are you moving to Omaha for?" Now we know. Omaha is now synonymous with happy-fun-time.

The problem with Keno is you think you're gonna win Every Single Time. Each new game is like a do-over and with the start of the first ball it brings you to a mini-catatonic state laced with ecstasy. The whole minute and a half you are breathless and absolutely convinced you will win. It looks so easy. If I had only picked 17 and 34 and 73 and 47 I would be a winner. I'll just pick those. I'll win it next time. I will. Here's $15 for my ticket to prove it.

The actual odds of winning big according to Wikipedia are as follows: "The probability of a player hitting all 20 numbers on a 20 spot ticket is approximately 1 in 3.5 quintillion." Then they go on to say the number of tickets actually purchased to achieve that win would stretch further than the Milky Way. Huh? The Milky Way is pretty far.

What's a quintillion anyway? No regular people know what a quintillion is. It sounds fakey and frightening. Because, you know, when I'm sitting there I know I'm going to win. Maybe a quintillion is a fancy way for saying a one in four chance. Qunit means four, right? That sounds about right.

If Keno is the perfect bar game then smoking in the bars is the most unperfect. Come on, Omaha, get with the program! Second hand smoke kills you. They proved that one 17 years ago. But even though we all know what arsenic filled smoke wafting into our lungs can do, into the bars we'd tromp, batting our hands in front of us all the way as if that may give us the edge we need to stay healthy and clean. We even had smoke with our scrambled eggs, 'cause you know we went to Omaha for some gambling fun, not to eat at a ritzy establishment with clean air and no Keno.

The bars in Omaha are pretty desperate in general, but the ones with Keno take the cake. They are not happy, prettily painted yuppie hang-outs for the most part - now I'm generalizing here - because that's what the world does we generalize to make our points clear. The bars are dank, gray-walled, VFW furnished, every bar stool filled since they opened, nobody has a full set of teeth, second homes. It's more than depressing, but we have a ton of fun anyway. Look, there's a new game starting! I think I'm going to win this one. Here pass me the menu, I need to wave it in front of my face for a few moments to get used to the smoke, ahh, that's better, now I'm adjusted, did you just see the 24 come up again? 24's hot, I'm going with 24 today. Gimme a crayon.

What struck me the most on Saturday morning, as I was having my 10:00 am beer, was the amount of people out gambling this early. Do they do this everyday? They must. Then I ambled to the bathroom, one of my many trips as the liquid mixed with alcohol began to pour through me unaided by any unnecessary food - who needs food when you have Keno - and passed a women who was, of course, scant on the teeth exiting the one-stalled bathroom the size of a closet.

Now, we all go into public restrooms. We do. But I'm betting that most of you try and enter a stall in which you did not see the last inhabitant exit from. It's just basic logic. Go to the the stall that is already empty whenever it's humanly possible, and then once seated you pretend is perfectly clean and never been touched by another human. That the cleaning lady was just here and it still smells of Lysol. It's what we do. On the crowded movie theater nights, when you are forced to pass by the previous inhabitant, you make no eye contact and pretend she's your sister.

When you are forced to look at the 400 pound toothless woman who just left the only stall in the entire 100 square mile radius it gets a little dicey. You can only hover for so long. Needless to say I got hammered so I didn't have to think about the money hemorrhaging out of my pocket book and the clientele I had to share a seat with. I worked out quite well. I barely remember the weekend and it only took me 2 days to get back into my regular routine.

If you're ever in Omaha you gotta try Keno. It's no fun in Vegas. When Keno is all you got it's heaven, when it's mixed in with all the other hoopla it just looks dumb. Go 24!
Come for some fun!

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